Monday, December 19, 2011

It's time to say goodbye ....

...... no, not me! :)

I'm talking about Kim Jong-il (aptly named, it seems). Gone at 69; curiously the same age as Muammar Gaddafi and Sadam Hussein. Do dictators have a sell-by date? How old is Putin?

So, what now for that strange, whacky, dangerous country known as North Korea? Are we to see a rogue state put in the hands of his son, Kim Jong-un, an inexperienced twentysomething only because they practise hereditary communism there? I doubt it. He's been "groomed" for the position, but getting stars on your epaulets without earning them doesn't make you fit to rule. Some of the more knarled generals who often stand on the balcony on auspicious occasions will feel a little put out with having to take orders from a neo-adolescent. I smell a palace coup coming on, even if the youngster stays as a puppet ruler, he'll be having his strings pulled by those who really have their fingers on the nuclear button. The uncertainty is just who gets to pull the strings - a dove or a hawk.

What is certain is that the world is a slightly less safe place right now. Put the Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight.

2012 - the year the Mayan calendar is supposed to end. The most unpredictable nuclear state in the world with a novice in charge, the arab world still in turmoil, Iran on the verge of a nuclear breakthrough with Israel and the US watching closely and the biggest financial crisis building up in Europe and the West since the Great Depression.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all. Eat, drink and be merry. It may be the last we have with the way of life as we know it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's almost time!

Less than 6 weeks to go before I'm heading back to Oman for a holiday with my partner. I have a few questions which some may be able to answer or give advice on. It's been over 6 years since I lived in Muscat and over 4 since I have been back for a vacation. Knowing how fast things change there, it'd be good to get some advice. So here goes:

  • We're looking to go scuba diving. Is ODC still the place to go? Any other companies and/or locations reliable and good?
  • How do you get to go see the turtles these days? Last time I went, I drove down with an Omani friend of mine and we slept on Turtle Beach at Ras al-Had to wait for the turtles to come in, which they did. I imagine that's way too "unofficial" these days;
  • Is Jabrin Fort finished yet? Would love to go as it looked very interesting;
  • Best bar in town? I liked Al-Ghazal at the Intercon so we will likely go there for old times' sake. But other ideas would be welcomed;
  • How can we get to play a round of golf on a grass course? It was all sand when I lived in Oman!
  • Best shopping experience? I lived in Qurm and I see there's a City Centre there now. Is it better than the Seeb City Centre? Always felt a bit short changed there;
  • I hear A'Seefah beach is being developed. Is it still worth a visit for a day out at the beach? If not, where's the best place to go? I used to go to Qantab Beach but I hear it has declined lately;
  • Is Wadi Shab still a not-to-be-missed experience? I know there's a black top all the way there these days (what a shame) so it is well within striking distance, but if it is not as it was then we'll give it a miss and go somewhere else;
  • Any other advice?

Thanks a lot. See you in Oman (we may pass each other in the street - or the beach - or the shopping centre) and never know!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Slave labour in Oman - does nothing change?!

I've just been flicking my way through the 14th September edition of The Week. Having read the lead article on the plight of the eight construction workers from Orissa, India, who resigned due to the appalling treatment they were given by the company which employed them, The Al Kindy Distinct Project, I'm astounded that this sort of practice continues in Oman today.

The cogs of Omani society are oiled by TCNs doing the work that some locals deem to base and demeaning to do (not all locals, I venture to add, just some) but if you're employed to do this work then you should be paid a fair wage and given decent working/living conditions - no matter what type of work you do.

I first lived in Oman almost 20 years ago and even back then there were labour laws which set out the rights of the worker. Why doesn't the Omani government implement these laws? It beggars belief that Oman is held in such high regard by the international community for its progress over the last 40 years when it has such scant regard for many of the labourers who built the country and continue to sustain it day in day out, year on year.

Shame on the Al Kindy Distinct Project for their cruel and reprehensible behaviour towards its expatriate workers and shame on the Omani government for allowing such companies to exist and thrive in a country which deserves better.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Eid Mubarak! (Enjoy your drink!)

Texted a few friends back in Oman on the occasion of Eid. Two were standing in separate lines ready to pay for booze after the long slog through Ramadhan. Nice to see some things haven't changed since I left!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hello Muammar!!

I've just noticed that the lastest country on the list of my "hits" is Lybia! Hello Muammar!! Nice to see you following me. Watch out for that rocket propelled grenade now, won't you!

Football....well, it's just, well....

I've been sitting and thinking about football. Now I don't normally do this. You could give me tickets to the World Cup final and I'd likely as not forget when it was on and miss the game. That changed a couple of weeks ago when my young nephew came down to stay with me for a week and insisted on watching every footy game there was on TV. Wanting to be the generous and "trendy" uncle, I relented and sat through quite a number of games.

Now what got me was just how inaccurate the game is. They put some statistics up on the screen which showed that only 30% of passes were successful. Good grief!! If you don't know how to pass a ball, what are you doing being paid £100,000 a week! And because you need a good pass to string together a bit of possession which leads to goal attempts and goals, the goals were few and far betweeen; and when they did come most were scrambled and deflected and basically slightly silly.

So, here we have a game loved by billions, played by millions and abused by one or two which consists of 22 men not doing what they should be doing the majority of the time and basically screwing up, leading to a flawed, messy spectacle full of fouls and yellow cards rather than graceful play and spectacular goals.

They call football the "Beautiful Game". Must have been blind.

In this day and age when everyone wants instant satisfaction; in this "I want that and I want it NOW!!" culture, I'm surprised football has survived. It is so 70s!

My nephew has gone back home. I've already forgotton which channels the football was on.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

London Burning .....

There are many theories that the rioting and looting taking place in London and other major cities has something to do with social inequality or a reaction to the economic "turning of the screw" by the UK government etc. etc. etc.

Utter rubbish.

This has everything to do with opportunist thugs and inbreds who deem it fit to damage other people's property and cause mayhem, suffering and danger to others. This is wanton hooliganism and has no social backdrop at all.

Enough pussy-footing around with the sympathetic treatment of this sort of person. The police need to be given powers to snuff out any further trouble with the maximum force possible.

Every parent, every brother, every sister, every aunt, every uncle, every friend has a duty to report all those responsible for this mayhem to the authorities and the UK justice system should thrown the damned book at them all, handing out the maximum custodial sentences possible.

I am livid with anger that my country can be ransacked and held hostage by a group of malcontents and miscreants, such as those who have taken part in these riots.

We need to ensure that the full force of the law is brought down upon all those involved.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ramadhan kareem!

Have a good Ramadhan everyone.

It's getting hotter, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Feline Love Story .....

I'm normally not one to get all teary eyed when hearing about "long lost lovers" reunited, but when it involves two city gents and a lion called Christian I have to admit I found it hard not to be moved.

Check out the following link (especially the video):

The video, apparently, is also a major hit on YouTube but I think the BBC present a good back story to it (sorry - it's CNN who do back stories, isn't it, with that insufferable, irritating Australian presenter who taps the screen all the time).

Anyway, I digress. The story is heartwarming and wonderfully uplifting.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I've been to Norway possibly 25 times for work and pleasure. I've seen the northern lights light up the snowy landscape above the arctic circle, the majestic fjords around the picturesque Hanseatic town of Bergen, the rolling hills and valleys in the interior and the relaxed capital, Oslo.

To say that Norway is blessed as a paradise is not to sell that word short.

Knowing Norway so well, I am aghast that such a lovely country could be the scene of such a horror as the recent bombing and shootings.

My thoughts go out to all those who have lost loved ones or have been involved in such a tragedy.

Having been to Norway so many times, not only do I know the land, I know the people there too. Such a resiliant people as the Norwegians will not bow to the acts of one crazed zealot. The pledge by their Prime Minister to react with "even more democracy" could not be a more true reaction from a stoically strong people.

If there is any country in the world I would rely upon to pick itself up and get on with its way of life, it would be Norway.

But for the time being, I lend my support to such a brave nation by saying:

I dag er vi alle norske.

Monday, July 11, 2011

News of the World .....

I didn't buy the last ever copy of the News of the World. It was a souvenir copy, advert free (except for charitible ads) and all money was going to charity. Despite all of this, I'd rather give my money to charity directly than support an organisation which condones its newspapers to hack into vulnerable people's lives.

Just what did the NotW think they would achieve by listening to the voice mail of a murdered girl; or reading emails of a soldier who died in battle?

Just what did they think they could report?

It is quite sickening.

Oman has quite strict press censorship. I raged against it when I lived there, aching for the time when the press opened up and reported what was really happening, rather than what the government wanted to tell the people.

Well, if the greedy need for information from a liberated press pushes news reporters to infiltrate into people's lives without consent, compounding the grief of recently bereaved relatives or reveal personal details of those in the public eye, then I'd rather stay with the state controlled media.

I want to read news, not scandal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Coming to Oman!

Just booked up some flights for me and my other half to visit Oman on holiday in early 2012. It'll be four long years since I was there. We'll be staying with old friends (OK, friends - they're not too old). I used up some precious air miles for the flights, so all in all it'll be a nice (and cheap) winter break full of relaxation, socialising and reminiscing!

I'll be interested to see how things have changed since I left in 2005.

I always said that living in such a 'young' country as Oman, a year was like a decade living elsewhere - buildings pop up from nowhere; shops, restaurants, cafes come and go; urbanisation creeps ever outwards as the suburbs become bigger.

When I first lived in Oman, there was nothing north of Bowshar until you got to Seeb other than the airport. There was one cinema showing English language movies (Star Cinema in Ruwi). There was no satellite TV, only a 15 minute daily news programme in English on Oman TV. There was no Muscat Festival (thank God!), no Hyatt Hotel, no road along the beach at Qurm, no paved road from Quriyat down to Sur, no City Centre, no big auto showrooms on Honda Road, no tourist visas at the airport, no Grand Mosque, no flyovers anywhere....etc....etc...etc...

Like I said, it'll be interesting to see how things have changed.

What should I be looking out for when I come?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Drip Drip Drip .....

So there I was enjoying a nice weekend away in London when I got a call from my neighbour at 7.30am on a Sunday morning. Now when I saw his name on my phone at such an early hour I knew it wasn't good news. Boy was I right!

"Come back quickly", he implored me. "There's water pouring into the flat below yours and into the one below that!"

I've never moved so quickly!

Bathroom flooded, torrents of water cascading down into the nearest two flats underneath me. Horrendous!

Thank God for insurance. Didn't have to pay a penny. Got a new toilet (it had been the cause) and bathroom floor for free. I even got them to replace the old sink to match the new toilet.

So here's me now visiting kitchen suppliers and thinking on how I can cause just a little leak in there :-)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I've never been interested in football.....

.....until now!

I get bored very easily. So having to watch 22 men kick a ball about in what seems to me to be a wholly uncoordinated way bores the heck out of me. I can usually last until half time IF it is a World Cup and IF England is playing. Anything other than that and I'm distraced before the first set piece.

But no longer. I'm hooked. I didn't know football could be so interesting! OK, I'm not talking about that knock about on the pitch, but the intrigue at FIFA. Sepp Blatter seems to be inhabiting a different universe to everyone else. I saw his press conference - the "crisis? what crisis?" one. He should head to Libya and join forces with the only other rather delusional totalitarian who's desparately clinging to power right now.

And to think that this association governs the rules of the game and organises what is credibly the most watched world event, the World Cup. The odd footballer playing away with a model or two pales into insignificance compared to this.

I have no sympathy for the FIFA members - they deserve what is coming to them.

I have no sympathy with professional footballers - they're overpaid prima donna thugs who seem to think that the normal rules of decency and decorum don't apply to them. How wrong they are.

I have sympathy for the 7 year-old child who plays his heart out on the school pitch in the middle of winter and for the proud Mum and Dad who stand there cheering him on. How can the members of FIFA show their faces without shame knowing that they have let down people like that.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bye Bye Osama

Well, well, well ... Bin Laden is dead. Good riddance to him. No-one should shed any tears at the passing of a tyrant. People of all faiths should rejoice that this man who mis-represented Islam is badly is no more. Perhaps we can get a little closer as a result.

However, the practical slant on all of this is that although the notional leader of al-Qaeda is dead, the terror will continue. It's time to steel ourselves for the backlash and hope the balance has been tipped in favour of the fight against terror.

What we all should be worried about is the sheer lack of knowledge of the Pakistani government that Bin Laden was residing in their country, not in some remote mountainous cave but half a mile from their most prestigious military academy in a respectable town an hour's drive from the country's capital!

Talk about exploiting the naivety of an incompetent government! Bin Laden was audicious to the last.

Oh, and Americans jumping for joy, singing and dancing at the news of Bin Laden's death......I understand where you're coming from but probably not the best response, at least not in public.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Breaking News: UK looks to Oman for advice on public holiday policy

So here's a rare event for the UK ........ I've taken 3 days of vacation this week and I've got 11 consecutive days off! "How is that possible?" I hear you ask. "The UK has only 8 public holidays a year and most of those are around Chrstmas and the New Year!" I hear you exclaim.

Well, some rather nice bloke and his fiancee, Will and Kate I think their names are, decided to get married on the Friday after Easter and just before the May Day bank holiday ... and they've given us the day off to sleep in and miss it! Bless.

So a combination of an event celebrating a rather dubious "back from the dead" escapade by a 2000 year old bloke whose existence has no concrete evidence to support it, the wedding of some rather stuffy, archaic royals and a relic of nascent socialism have combined to give me 11 days off.

You couldn't write this stuff!!!

I feel like I'm back in Oman!

Oh....and the weather is playing a blinder. Sunny and hot. Too funny!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mother's Day

In the past, Mother's Day was always one of those days which turned out to be more of an inconvenience than a day to look forward to. As a child, I was oblivious to it. As an adult, I always seemed to have better things to do and would only get round to preparing for Mother's Day at the very last moment. Don't get me wrong, I love my Mum and have always thought the world of her. It was more the "Hallmark Holiday" tag that Mother's Day has which rubbed me up the wrong way.

This year, it is different.

My Mum 's health has declined rapidly over the last 9 months. In that time she has fallen and broken her leg badly, but has had to live with it being broken as an operation to fix it would likely kill her due to a very weak heart. As a result, she's been forced to move out of her home and enter a Care Home. All of this is in addition to the deteriorating state of her mind due to Alzheimer's disease. All in all, a very stressful time tinged with more than a hint of sadness.

Like I said, this year is different.

As the old saying never know how much you miss someone until they're gone. Well my Mum hasn't gone yet and I, for one, am determined to enjoy more time with her whilst she is still here so I do not regret later that I didn't do as much as possible to make this time in her life as happy as possible. With that in mind, for this Mother's Day I have put aside any issues I may have with the day itself and transformed Mother's Day into Mother's Weekend!

The weekend will be full of family visits, an outing for lunch on the Sunday itself, a visit to the beauty salon on the Saturday to get pampered and preened and a wheel around the shops for some retail therapy tomorrow (Friday). All transportation is going to be via the best limousine service I can find (as well as the prestige, limos are wheelchair friendly!). For someone who's almost 89 and in failing health, its a mammoth weekend!

Mother's Day may be a fabricated holiday designed to make you spend money, but the idea of honouring the woman who brought you into this world and, as likely as not, brought you up for more years than you can remember, is something not just to grudgingly acknowledge but something to take hold of and celebrate.

Your Mum will not be around forever - a hard fact which crashed into my consciousness this past year. Don't miss the opportunity to say Thank you Mum. I love you.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More protests ... this time in the UK

More protests to be commenting on, but this time they're in the UK and they're not about a war. Perhaps some would say that they're about a form of repression which could be akin to the repression seen in the Arab world and which has been so bravely confronted over the last few months.

Is this a good comparison? No.

People here in London are marching against tax increases and benefits cuts. They're complaining that they're suffering from a reaction by the Coalition Goverment to the hole the UK finds itself in as a result of the recession; a financial repression.

But there is a way to protest for more effectively than walking down a street shouting and waving banners- they can vote at the ballot box.

What these demonstartors seem to have forgotten is that less than a year ago, they put a cross in a box and voted for this government; and the government clearly stated that they were going to aggressively tackle the deficit. So why complain?

You make you lie in it.

The recession has caused hardship for all of us. There's no way out of this unless we tighten our belts. Whinging on about cuts and tax hikes is not going to solve anything.

The protestors are free to protest, so protest...but things will not change. We are in a recession and we need to take measures to get out of it. If you don't like it, then you know what to do in 2015.

And as for those minority of people who think that a protest is a good vehicle for violence and mayhem - leave the violence and anarchy to the despots of this world like Gaddafi and Bashir. There's no room for your type of destabilising tactics in a democracy. You're on the losing team. Stop being immature and get down to solving your own problems.

All of these protestors will be off for a coffee and a sandwich at Starbucks or Costa Coffee after the march, will take public transport or drive home, and will rest their heads on their own pillow in their own home tonight. They'll not be worried that a sniper will take a pot shot at them. They'll not be worried that a dictator will sweep in and make life in their towns and villages hell.

Be thankful for what you have and work together towards a better future.

Stop complaining.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kids .... who'd have 'em!

OK, this post is likely to not sit well with a lot of people (well most people actually) but here goes....

I don't like children. There, I've said it. It's starts with a mild irritation at older teenagers and ends up as a particular distaste for babies. Now, don't get me wrong, I know kids are necessary and essential and that we're all supposed to have the urge to procreate etc., and I understand this, I really do. But I still dislike children. I don't hate them, I'm just much happier when I'm not around any.

I even more dislike them when I can't escape them. Normally, if there's stroppy kid or a whining baby in the vicinity, I'll move away out of earshot or out of the way of flying food/drink/anything. But when you put babies and aeroplanes together you get a very nasty combination indeed.

That's what happened today - babies and planes.

I was on a 2 hour flight and sat in front of a couple with the BABY FROM HELL. It all started out well enough - said baby was asleep and looked ever so cute. But, of course, that didn't last. As soon as we were strapped into our seats an there was no escape, the cute little baby woke up and became......the BABY FROM HELL!!!!! You guessed it, it yawned, looked around and then started crying. Now I don't mean just your ordinary cry, but a scream so loud it sounded like someone was strangling it. And it continued to scream for the whole two hours of the flight. The parents were helpless. Short of stuffing something in its mouth, there was no stopping the BABY FROM HELL!

What could I do? Nothing of course, absolutely nothing. I sat there and feared for my hearing for two hours.

Why don't planes have "baby friendly sections" (soundproofed) so that us fare paying passengers don't have to suffer an assault on our hearing? Surely there's a way of avoiding one very, very little person ruining two hours out of the lives of many big people?

Babies are lovely, cuddly, cute.....when they belong to someone else and they're asleep. Other than that, they're a bundle of noise and smells which defy human patience (well my patience).


Saturday, March 12, 2011


How quickly the vast behemoth we call the modern media changes focus. The revolution in Libya and the unrest in the Middle East was subject to saturation coverage over the last few weeks, almost to the exclusion of all else.

Now, the tragedy in Japan caused by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami has knocked the Middle East dilemma off the map completely....not just as the top story....but completely. Even the BBC, that paragon of good broadcasting, has lurched from wall-to-wall coverage of Libyan unrest to wall-to-wall coverage of the aftermath of the natural disaster in Japan, like the Eye of Sauron searching for the Hobbits. There seems to be no middle ground. Lybia barely gets a "and now for the rest of the news" mention.

The disaster in Japan is tragic. Death and destruction on that scale is awesome and terrifying in equal measure. Mother Nature has stirred and reminded us just how much She is in charge, and not us. We are no more than an irritant on her skin, to be swatted or scratched from time to time.

But the disaster in Japan is a point in time and no matter how awful it is right now, it has very little long term impact on humanity, on society and on the future of the human world we all live in. It deserves our attention. It deserves our symathy and help. It deserves extensive, but not exclusive media coverage.

The happenings in the Middle East, on the other hand, are fundamental to the way a large portion of the world will work in the forseeable future. They deserve more than a mention at the end of the news.

Why does the media get this so wrong?

I'm afraid to say that even such respected institutions like the BBC and CNN are out for sensationalist headlines. The Lybian conflict has reached a stalemate. Gaddafi has survived (for now) and is fighting back. For news organisations looking for the next big headline, this is a disaster. It's just a shame that another disaster has to be the vehicle for them to get out of the doldrums they find themselves back in the fast current of sensationalist journalism.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A major reshuffle - good enough?

So Sultan Qaboos has ordered a "major reshuffle" of his cabinet - presumably meaning that some high profile ministers will be axed or moved. No details yet but one questions begs an answer - is it enough to assuage people's anger and give them reassurance that their demands have been met?

Probably not.

If the chess pieces are just moved around a little, it's still the same board.

Even if some of the ministers are axed, it's the system that is rotten, not only the guys at the top. Root and branch changes are needed, not just a cosmetic makeover.

Those holding out at Sohar don't just want to see another sycophant at the Ministry of Labour, or a self server at the Ministry of Oil and Gas. They want to see honest, selfless and professional leaders who will sweep away the "wasta" and corruption which is endemic in the ministries.

So....a message to His Majesty....think hard before you make you decisions. The future of your country as you know it is at stake.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oman Demonstrations

The winds of change are blowing through the Arab world. Dictators are falling and will fall. And the breath of fresh air has finally reached Oman. Those in power are fightened. Already, hastily drawn-up laws are being rushed through into existence. Money is being thrown at the populace. Do they not learn? Do they not see? This isn't about money or food prices or wealth. This is about FREEDOM.

Sometimes the birth of a truly democractic nation is truamatic. Whether you are under the rule of a despot or an all-powerful monarch, you are STILL under the rule of a dictator. You have no say in where your country goes. You have no way of protest. In democracies, a person can demonstrate and disagree - moreover your right to demonstrate is protected. In dictatorships, good or bad, you are not free to do this. You are thought unworthy to do so; made to live out your life without a say in how your life is led.

I fervently hope that Oman, a country I love, does not degenerate into the violence seen in Libya but equally, I fervently hope that the Omani people gain freedom to have a full say in their own country. This can only happen if those in power, including the Sultan, realise that they cannot reign above those they subjugate by right alone and that the masses will no longer be bought off with a quick cash advance or made to cower beneath the sword or the whip.

Gone are the days when the ruling elite should be there because of their birthright. Gone are the days when an accident of birth or who you know should be the only criteria for high office. We all live in the 21st century. All of us, everywhere, should have a say in how we live our lives and, moreso, how the country we live in is managed.

The Sultan is a wise man; an enlightened man. I am sure that he will do the right thing. I am sure that he will allow his people to have a say in the running of their country. He has pulled Oman out of the depths of poverty and myopic introspection and made the country into a jewel in the Gulf. He cannot and, I hope, will not allow all of that to be undone by not moving towards true democracy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gaddafi, the umbrella, the golf cart and Deputy Dawg

So, with the situation in Libya accelerating into civil war, Gaddafi decides to make a "speech" on TV to refute rumours that he's flown off to visit his friend Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Now any self respecting demagogue would appear on TV immaculately dressed in a suit and embark on an impassioned speech explaining how perfectly acceptable it is that the armed forces fire on unarmed civilians and that he's going to stay exactly where he is until order, a.k.a oppression, is firmly re-established.

But no, Gaddafi doesn't seem to want to do this. He appears in a Deputy Dawg costume, sitting in a golf cart under a fetching cream umbrella against a backdrop of pock marked walls in what looks like an underground car park. He rambles on for 20 seconds about how he met with the youth and how people shouldn't believe the dogs out there and then closes the umbrella on himself.

Weird or what!!

Gaddafi is no longer the problem in Libya. He's obviously mad. His sons, other family members, hangers on and those with a vested interest in keeping this deplorable regime in power are the ones to fear.

The Libyan revolution is turning into the Romanian revolution of the 21st century. I would not be surprised to see Gadaffi and many of his circle strung up on lampposts before all of this plays out to a conclusion.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day one and all. I hope you're with your loved one on this day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Piracy and Oman

A recent story from the BBC website on Somali piracy in the Gulf:

So Somali pirates are now operating in the waters off the coast of Oman. A lot of OEB crude oil trade is with East Africa and beyond (requiring the use of the Red Sea / Suez Canal shipping route), as is quite a bit of the excess finished product from Oman's refineries. The seized shipment is around 2 million barrels of crude oil, which would equate to about 0.7% of Oman's yearly production. The article doesn't say if the crude oil was from Oman, but doubtless the threat exists. I wonder how worried the Omani government is about piracy affecting its exports?

I must say, as strongly as I condemn this sort of lawless act I cannot help but somehow admire the enterprise of the pirates. Talk about expanding a lucrative business!! If only they could be allowed to channel their enthusiasm for making money in other, more law abiding ways!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Revolution - Where Next?

Tunisia was quite straightforward really. Egypt is becoming a long, drawn-out affair with Mubarak just not seeing the writing on the wall (long term dictators do become very myopic when it comes to seeing reality).

So who is next? In the Middle East there are many candidates. Iran may be gearing up for a second round of unrest. Already Jordan has had street protests prompting King Abdullah to reshuffle the government and demonstrations in Kuwait reflect heightened political unrest.

What about others? Perhaps the UAE is too wealthy and the population too small to cause unrest. Saudi is a good candidate, with its masses of unemployed youth and it's extremely insular society.

How about Oman? Sultan Qaboos is a benevolent dictator but a dictator all the same. He's been there 40+ years and, although the country has been dragged out of the dark ages into the 21st century there's no democracy, no distribution of wealth even though oil reserves are being exploited at a fast rate and no confirmed successor, despite a constitution giving a rather old-fashioned and potentially dangerous set of conditions for someone to succeed the current occupant. Could the good people of Oman finally feel the fresh breeze of true democracy blowing through their country? Unemployment is high, wages low, poverty growing, crime on the increase and corruption rife. Could revolution already be heard in the whispers of the disaffected masses?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bode Miller? I think not!

Just back from a week's skiing in the Italian Alps. What can I say? Fantastic! It was blue skies all the way. OK, OK, I know you hardened skiers out there would want lots of snow every day so that you can have deep powder off piste skiing, but as I'm not insured for off piste skiing (so would have to drag myself with two broken legs back onto piste to get the insurance) I was happy with the nice groomed pistes, the fabulous weather and the occasional restaurant and cafe. It was even pleasant enough to catch a few rays too. There's nothing better than reclining on chair in full skiing gear taking in some sun.

I managed my goals for the week:

  • I spent a lovely week with the one I love;
  • I did not fall down - not once!
  • I went down all of the black runs, even the one with moguls (OK, it took me the best part of 15 minutes but, hey, who's timing!);
  • I got a nice tan;
  • I had the best pasta and pizza you can get this side of Florence;
  • I forgot about work....entirely;
  • Apart from the odd ache or pain here and there, I came back relatively intact.
The holiday was arranged by a well known skiing travel agent. That's the first "arranged" holiday I've taken in almost 25 years, so I was a bit worried that it would turn out like Benidorm on ice. However, my fears were misplaced. The staff were subtle, hands-off and discreet. There were activities available, but we didn't use them. We did go on a wine and cheese tasting evening in and around the resort, which was more wine drinking than wine tasting (taste and swallow rather than spit). A very good evening was had by all!

Back to work now - and the grey, gloomy skies of Britain. But the glow of this holiday will take some time to subside and should see me safely through the rest of the winter.

I'd recommend the sport, and the experience, to anyone!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Working from home

I'm working from home this week. I don't normally do this, even though I can just about manage to do most things I would normally do in the office. I like to go into the office as I get more of a chance to liaise with others at work, even on a social level. Working from home has its advantages (TV breaks and good coffee) but I feel like I'm off sick without being sick. Daytime TV !!!! Since when has that become so bad (OK, so I do take lots of TV breaks)! Even though the distractions are more, the interruptions from my boss and colleagues are removed, so overall I think I'm as productive, if not more, from home.

This week's working from home has been self-imposed, as I have builders around doing some work on my house. I hate this. I love the result, but I hate the process. I hate strangers coming into my home and basically setting up camp in my private space. They're courteous, polite and respectful but that doesn't make my feeling of being violated subside. Yes, I know, I brought this in myself. It was me that wanted new floors put in and a wall knocked down. So I have only myself to blame. That doesn't mean I have to like what's happening.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Just what will 2011 have in store?

A Happy New Year to all my readers - and from the number of hits on my blog, I'd say that was all three of you :) Still, one can only try.

So, we're now into 2011 - the second decade of the 21st century. Yes, yes I know, some would argue that last year was the first year of the second decade but I beg to differ as the century really started with 2001 (2000 was only the numerical change from the 1990s to the 2000s).

What will this year bring? Are we out of the recession yet or stalling towards another dip? So here are my predictions for the year ahead:

  • Don't go thinking you can safely spend all of that money you've been hoarding during the recession. We're not out of the woods yet. There'll be no recovery in 2011. The best we can hope for is a year of "treading water";
  • Terrorism will rear its ugly head again this year, with a high profile incident in a Western country. It's inevitable;
  • More weird weather. Birds are falling out of the skies in the US, Italy and Sweden. Remember "The Day After Tomorrow"? Something odd is going on;
  • Oil prices will remain high as OPEC squeezes the life out of those countries dependent upon them;
  • Several high profile airlines will go under due to the cumulative impact of weather, volcanoes and passenger traffic declining;
  • The world will keep on turning and night will follow day.
OK, I'm only sure about the last one there. What predictions do you make for 2011?